qathet Regional board wants tailored COVID-19 restrictions

Current rules make it difficult for small businesses to operate, says Area C director

qathet Regional District will request that the province allow regional hospital districts such as Powell River Regional Hospital District to operate on its own basis, taking into consideration the factors in each district.

At the November 26 regional board meeting, Electoral Area C director Clay Brander said he had been in touch with Frank Clayton of the Canadian Martial Arts Academy in Powell River. Brander said earlier this month, Clayton received word that his classes would need to halt because of new COVID-19 restrictions.

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“He’s very diligent and he dutifully filed a COVID-19 plan with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), which was approved, and that allowed him to then restart classes again with proper protocols in place,” said Brander. “Shortly after reopening he was then shut down again with additional restrictions in place. Frank again contacted VCH and this time made the request that private lessons be allowed, which was approved.

But then the next morning, that was again taken away, leaving him with an empty facility and no income, but the expenses of running a business in place.”

Brander said it appears to him that the vast majority of Powell River residents are taking the necessary precautions.

“In spite of this the ministry of health has imposed restrictions upon our area and the rest of the province, making it very difficult for small businesses such as the Canadian Martial Arts Academy to continue to operate,” said Brander. “In light of this situation, I would like to take the opportunity to make a motion.”

Brander’s motion was that the regional board write a letter to VCH and the ministry of health saying the board is advocating for COVID-19 restrictions to be imposed on a regional hospital district by regional hospital district basis, taking into consideration the severity of the situation in each district. Additionally, the letter should also request that local governments and the public be informed of the numbers of local COVID-19 cases in these districts so appropriate measures are taken to protect the well-being of the community by reinforcing and rewarding good behaviour and promoting educated decision-making.

Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he thinks a similar request was made with regard to the second half of this motion in September and the regional district hasn’t heard anything.

“I have no problem supporting this resolution but I have a pretty strong suspicion it will fall on deaf ears at the ministry of health and Vancouver Coastal Health,” said Gisborne. “They seem to have a bit of a challenge knowing where we are. Some of you might remember in spring where they came out with an announcement saying we had a COVID-19 case in our community and that it was rescinded. Then we get calls that we have cases and we don’t have cases, then these lockdowns came from Vancouver Coastal Health. They initially didn’t apply to the City of Powell River, but it applied to the rural areas, but then it did apply to the city.

“It seems like they don’t really know where we are, which isn’t surprising. I plan on supporting the resolution but I don’t think it’s going to do anything at the ministry of health level, unfortunately.”

City director CaroleAnn Leishman said she is happy to support the motion but didn’t think it would get much traction from the minister of health.

“Vancouver Coastal Health tells us they don’t have the ability to bypass the minister of health and public health,” said Leishman. “That’s really where the direction comes from. By suggesting that the restrictions be tailored to each health district, that is going to be more work on the ministry and public health.

“We are not doing ourselves any favours if we have relaxed restrictions that also include the ability for people to travel because that was part of the original restrictions to stop that cross travel to Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. That, of course, is how the virus could end up in the Powell River region. It’s going to be tricky and I wouldn’t anticipate this is going to help, but I can support it.”

Electoral Area A director and board chair Patrick Brabazon said he didn’t think any directors were expecting immediate success, but if he understands Brander’s intention, he is not talking about travel.

“He is simply talking about what happens up here,” said Brabazon.

Brander said that is true.

“I’m not advocating for a lifting of travel bans,” said Brander. “I’m just hoping to find a way for small, local businesses to possibly get through this. I understand what everybody is saying about that it may fall on deaf ears but if enough regional districts like ours submit letters like this, maybe some change will happen. If we don’t do anything then nothing will happen.”

Electoral Area D director Sandy McCormick said even if the regional board expects it to fall on deaf ears, it does not mean the board shouldn’t ask.

“This is information that would help everyone in our community,” said McCormick. “I support this motion.”

The motion carried.

 
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